Saturday, May 31, 2008


A., answering the phone: Hi. I'm running out of the house now...
Mom: A tornado is coming toward your area...
A.: What?
Mom: Turn on the TV!
A.: I don't have time, I'm running late.
Mom: You should be going to hide somewhere where it can't reach you.
A.: Okay, I'll hide in the city.
Mom: I'm serious!
A.: Mom, I don't have time to discuss this right now. Bye!
Mom: Bye.

Tornado warnings are good, when they're credible, but mom lacks credibility as far as I'm concerned. She cries wolf too often, so I tend not to take her seriously.

It was windy when I left the house, and pouring-down rain when I emerged from the metro, late and annoyed at the hordes of tourists that were blocking the left lane on the escalator. I made it to "Antony and Cleopatra" on time. It was good. Two cell phones rang during the show, once in each act, even though the Theatre as usual asked to ensure all cell phones were off. Some people. Anyway, when I emerged again, it was beautiful out.

I don't blame mom for warning me-- in fact, I left her a message thanking her. I genuinely appreciate the concern and the effort. I just don't know when to take her seriously.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Your password, BIG DEAL!

This morning my mother sent me the following e-mail. Were it not for her signature broken English, I would have thought it was a scam:

"Your father screwed up my and your Google accounts and I am not able to access my bookmarks. most of my bookmarks in your account. Could you please email your PW."

I replied,

"no-- I don't think my password will help and I'm not going to send it over the internet. call google or go through the program to reset your password."

I knew what she would say-- in the past she's complained about the 'stupid squiglies' with which she has so much trouble. But there's NO WAY IN HELL I'm going to send anyone, including my mother, my gmail password. F* no.

Now, when I first balked, it was more out of security concerns, but thinking about it more and more, mom's given me plenty of reasons not to trust her with my privacy. The woman has never knocked in her life, has no problem listening in on phone calls, and thinks she had a right to open and read my mail.

That aside, there are the obvious security issues, which I can't believe she can't appreciate. But apparently, she can't, because she just called me screaming:

"BIG DEAL, you're password! I spent HOURS trying to clean up this mess! You didn't log out! You won't come near this computer next time you're here..."

A.: I always log out. There is no way I didn't log out...
Mom: Well, you didn't.
A.: Besides, what do your bookmarks have to do with a google account?
Mom: They're saved to Google...
A.: Why don't you log in? Do you know your google password?
Mom: They give me those squigglies... I've spent hours on this. You know what, forget it. You'll never touch my computer again! Bring your laptop.
A.: I brought my laptop last time but it wasn't much use because you don't have wireless.
Mom: I don't care!
A.: I can help you reset your google account...
Mom: I've already spent hours trying to do that.

I have very little sympathy when mom tells me she's spent hours on something-- and she tells me that quite a bit-- because whatever that something is doesn't take hours if you take a few minutes to figure it out. For example, once when I lacked internet access I asked her to renew a book online for me. I gave her detailed instructions, but she "spent hours" trying to do it.

We went around in circles a few times. She got angry, blamed me and dad for whatever the problem was. We left it at that.

Out of curiosity, I checked under my google bookmarks, and lo and behold, there were a bunch of websites there, from the unnecessary (google searches on "polish" and "local movie listings"; the contact page for the MA attorney general's office) to the are-you-serious (the rev wright video) to the to-each-her-own (Russian joke sites, etc.). I called her and said I'd e-mail her the list. And then I'd like to delete them from my account as soon as humanly possible.

Oh, and it's not because I didn't log out, because google automatically logs you out every two weeks anyway, so I don't want to hear it.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

reliable if not exciting

My phone rings at 10pm. I understand that tomorrow is a holiday, but isn't it always better to call at not 10pm?

Mom: How are things?
A.: Fine...
Mom: Just fine? A few days ago they were good. What happened?
A.: Nothing... things are good.
Mom: What did you do today?

Mom does like to keep tabs on what I do.

A.: I went to the opera...
Mom: Did you bike there?
A.: No.
Mom: They should have bike racks.
A.: I'm sure they do. Whether they have showers is another issue... [I mean, there are a number of issues, but before I let myself continue to think of them, I though, 'are we really having this conversation?']

Mom told me about her day (a pleasant outing).

I recall something dad said many months ago-- that mom was a woman of extremes. He said this in a context of one of her political rants, and followed it with, 'if she weren't Jewish, she'd be anti-Semitic,' but it's true in a non-political sense as well. Many things in mom's view are all or nothing. In her frame of mind, since I enjoy cycling, I will always prefer to cycle everywhere. And there are people who do prefer to cycle everywhere-- read Sex and the City-- and I think that's great, if that's what works for you, but in a city with great public transportation, cycling is not always the most efficient way of getting around. What I'm trying to say is, my logic says that just because something-- be it a form of transportation, a career choice, or anything in between-- works for one particular situation, it's not the right thing for every situation. Mom's logic skips that step.

I've written much in these pages (see, for example, original Have You Applied to Google post) about mom's it-works-here-so-it-must-work-everywhere thing. I've also written about the time she tried to set me up with the son of a friend of a friend, the sole basis of the connection being that we both cycled to work. For her, my choice of transportation defined me in a way (for me, it was a choice of transportation).

The leap here, from previous posts-- the epiphany-- is that mom is projecting. I think I used to subconsciously wonder, 'what must she think of me?' whereas now I think, what about mom leads her to this kind of logic. Similarly, when I first became a vegetarian-- back when vegetarianism was newer to people-- I got a lot of nutty questions and some bizarre logic. People (largely, my parents' friends) would tell me that people like me blew up animal labs (apparently, for some people, to have conviction is necessarily to take that conviction to extremes); that eating plants also entailed violence; that if I wanted to truly live sustainably, I'd never get anywhere for fear of stepping on a single ant. All-or-nothing, I tell you. And I think I used to take it at least somewhat personally, but now I'm more prone to see it as a reflection of other person.

For some reason, this train of thought reminded me of an event I forgot to blog about in the China notes, although I've had a chance to tell some of you about it. We had taken a ferry up Shennong Stream, off the Yangtze, and were getting off that and onto some row boats. We were at the back of the boat, which was unimportant because the breathtakingly beautiful landscape was all around us. It was very peaceful, too, until mom started-- and wouldn't stop-- complaining that the woman in front of her had a huge head and however was she going to see anything. She said it once, twice, three or four times before I asked her to stop.

A.: Stop, please.
Mom: No, the woman's head is so big.
A.: Mom, Enjoy the surroundings and stop ruining for everyone else.
Mom: No! The woman's head is big and how dare you tell me what to do.

Dad agreed with me, mom accused him of always taking my side, and so on. But even though she stayed on the offensive, I think she realized she was wrong and just didn't like to be called on it.

A moment like this actually contributed to the ruin of my graduation from Smith. Mom's penchant for whining about and/or making a melodrama of the slightest thing really puts a damper on events, which is why perhaps-- or so the media tells us-- many women may have grown up dreaming of a wedding, but for various reasons I grew up dreading the prospect (I'll jump from that bridge when I get to it). For one thing, every time I stopped to say goodbye to a friend, mom yelled at me for spending time not talking to family friends who had driven out for the graduation. After teh ceremony, we went to a Thai restaurant, and mom started complaining about the food. It had too much salt. She said it once, twice, etc. It was clear she was going to keep saying it throughout the meal. I asked her to stop. She threw a fit and continued to be a selfish pain in the ass the rest of the day.

On the way back to the office from a meeting, my supervisor commented that one thing she wouldn't mind about working for some corporations is the kind of lunch you read about at places like Google.

On a completely different note, here are collected first impressions of Gracie:

-She's shaped like a rugby ball!
-Is she carrying twins?
-There goes Jabba the Hut.
-She's the size of both my cats put together.

Monday, May 19, 2008

wake up

Ugh. I'll agree with Marie Cocco, but I can't deal with some of the just don't get it. Just like it's not about whom you'd like to have a beer with, it's not about the demographic whose turn it is: do these people not realize what's at stake? This makes me all the angrier because it goes back to the accusations that women don't get the issues.

And don't even get me started on the elitism thing-- let's just get someone "just like us," someone who can't point out Iraq on a map, for president. Idiocracy all the way. Call me an elitist, but I want the leader of the country to be smart/educated/accomplished. Not that any of the candidates aren't, but the whole elitism angle is just absurd.

I for one am glad that I'm supporting the candidate shunned by ignorant people. Just watch the first few minutes.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

enough about the rest of the world

I hate to be presumptuous, but you may be wondering what I've been up to, or what mom has been up to, or at least what shenanigans mom has been up to. I'm sorry to disappoint-- it's been pretty tame. She did call around 8:30pm and ask me if I was going to bed. She also gave me a sign that she listens and is capable of change-- she asked nicely if I would write to Kathy (our guide in China) from all of us to express concern about the earthquake. In fact, she barely asked-- she asked if I was going to write something like that (I was) and would I make it from all of us because it's hard for her, and I said I would, and she said that was a huge relief. Now, I won't say that I'll always be as receptive to requests for letters (that was a particularly appropriate one), but asking rather than demanding/assuming and then calling me and going on about the specifics of something, and making assumptions about my free time, makes a huge difference.

As for me, things are good. I biked to work for the first time today-- I was going to go tomorrow, on Bike to Work Day, but it's supposed to rain so I figured I'd try it on a nice day first. It was beautiful, and surprisingly easy (because it's pretty flat, and mostly on trails). The ride over in the morning was particularly lovely. The ride home was fine-- more traffic, sore butt and all. Cycling takes a bit longer than riding the metro, at least for now, but--you'll rarely hear me say this-- the time differential is irrelevant. To misquote the Little Prince, if I had extra time, I'd go for a nice bike ride.

metablog: Abkhazia

I LOVE this post.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Check out the graph on the left side.

Has Thomas Friedman ever had an original thought? I'd link to his column but I don't want to waste your time.

Monday, May 12, 2008

role modeling


By the way, I have found enlightenment in Trader Joe's whole wheat tortillas.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day II

Last year on mother's day, I wrote:
While I tend to chronicle the absurd moments because they're more interesting, I want to take this opportunity to say that I really do appreciate my mother for the wonderful person she is and for everything she has done for me.
All of that is still true and I still mean it. My mother is a wonderful person, she has done a lot for me, and I appreciate the sacrifices she has made and (some of the) values she has instilled in me.

It has been a struggle to balance the good with the bad, the nurturing with the abusive, over the last few months, years, perhaps my whole life. I tend to divide the bad, or justify it, into two categories: (1) she means well and (2) she doesn't know any better; it's the only way she knows how to relate to people. Neither of those makes it much more tolerable or justifiable, but they're both true.

I think it was New Year's Day many years ago that a friend pointed out that mom was emotionally abusive, to which I reacted with denial. I also offered that she meant well. My friend (who no longer speaks to her mother) pointed out that that didn't make it okay. You may ask, how can someone who means well be so mean? I can tell you that she's not the only person that believes that thinks that hammering on her child's (or spouse's, other family member's) real or perceived faults and weaknesses is her duty. Mom believes that if she just shows me the light, I'll address those flaws and be a better person, talk less, have more friends who like me for who I am rather than out of politeness. It's evangelical: it would be irresponsible of her to not save me (from being who I am).

There's also a dissonance of perceptions between mother and daughter, where the speaker may intend no criticism but the listener nonetheless interprets it. The mother expresses concern or concerned advice (drive safely, apply to Google, make sure your plate looks like a rainbow (that last one's not mine but it may as well be); the daughter thinks (sometimes accurately), "mom must think I'm incompetent, helpless." People have written books about this, I have not read them. I'm just saying, not all of mom's unsolicited advice is based on her lack of confidence in me. But here's the thing: it's not harmless. It takes a toll and becomes a mom-fulfilling prophecy. I used to think I was the only one who lost things, forgot things, because whenever I did, mom turned it into a me thing rather than an it-happens thing. It turns out, other people lose things, too. Cell phone insurance is a booming business.

Onto justification (2): she doesn't know any better. I wholeheartedly believe this because I grew up not knowing any better, and learned better the hard way. It was painful but liberating to learn, by observing other people and making mistakes, i.e. mimicking the behavior I'd observed growing up, that people don't have to be nasty to each other; that issues can, should be resolved without yelling; that you can request a change in behavior without putting someone down in the process. One of you said about the China blogs, "I can't believe you still talk to your mother. Some of the things she said, did, were so nasty." Which is true. But she doesn't know any better.

Mother's Day generally falls within several days of my birthday, and this year, in a convoluted way, the proximity between the two is why I'm feeling a bit less forgiving, i.e. why I chose to harp rather than just write a feel-good mother's day post. There just has to be something not quite right when I approach my birthday thinking, "mom is 400 miles away this year-- any emotional abuse will have to be diluted by a telephone connection." I'm happy to report that I got through this birthday without being insulted by my mother (first time in at least two years). Let's hope it's the start of a new tradition.